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Mol Ecol. 2012 Feb;21(3):685-98. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05255.x. Epub 2011 Aug 31.

Female reproductive competition in Eulemur rufifrons: eviction and reproductive restraint in a plurally breeding Malagasy primate.

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1
Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology Unit, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany. pkappel@gwdg.de

Abstract

In mammals with female philopatry, co-resident females inevitably compete with each other for resources or reproductive opportunities, thereby reducing the kin-selected benefits of altruism towards relatives. These counteracting forces of cooperation and competition among kin should be particularly pronounced in plurally breeding species with limited alternative breeding opportunities outside the natal group. However, little is still known about the costs of reproductive competition on females' fitness and the victims' potential counter-strategies. Here we summarize long-term behavioural, demographic and genetic data collected on a plurally breeding primate from Madagascar to illuminate mechanisms and effects of female reproductive competition, focusing on forcible eviction and potential reproductive restraint. The main results of our study indicate that females in groups of redfronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons) above a critical size suffer from competition from their close relatives: females in larger groups face an increased probability of not giving birth as well as a higher probability of being evicted, especially during the annual mating and birth seasons. Eviction is not predicted by the number of adult females, the number of close female relatives, female age or inter-annual variation in rainfall but only by total group size. Thus, eviction in this species is clearly linked with reproductive competition, it cannot be forestalled by reproductive restraint or having many relatives in the group, and it occurs in the absence of a clear dominance hierarchy. Our study therefore also underscores the notion that potential inclusive fitness benefits from living with relatives may have been generally over-rated and should not be taken for granted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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